Meanwhile, Perry announced his candidacy for president on a dais in a Charleston, S.C., hotel surrounded by American flags at the Red State Conference.
And while the candidates in Iowa threw red meat to their audiences -- attacks on "Obamacare" and federal spending as well as calls for respect for traditional marriage and an end to abortion -- Perry gave a presidential speech.
Focused almost exclusively on the economy and jobs, Perry made the case for his own economic cred while attacking Obama's record.
In Iowa, the strongest applause lines were those referencing abortion or gay marriage, not jobs or economic issues.
"I tell people that everything I needed to know in life I learned in Iowa," Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann told the audience in the Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University.
Bachmann emphasized her Iowa roots time and time again in her speech, from noting that "the crops are growing" to touting that she is "a seventh-generation Iowan," even though she moved to Minnesota when she was 12 and is now a congresswoman for the North Star state.
"My mother and father taught us to always love Iowa," she continued. "They said, 'Be grateful that you're from Iowa. Iowa is the breadbasket of the world. We feed millions of people from Iowa. Be grateful.' So I have always been grateful that I am an Iowan and I believe it's time we had an Iowan in the White House."
Pivoting away from the heavy economic focus of his speeches from the past week, Paul told a crowd in Ames "you have to understand where that liberty and that life comes from. It does not come from the government. It comes from our creators."
During his remarks, he recalled some graphic stories from his time as an obstetrics-gynecology resident to explain his opposition to abortion rights. Paul said that in the 1960s, physicians were "defying the law in doing abortions," and told a story of seeing how doctors delivered a baby via Caesarean section and then "put it in a bucket in the corner of the room and let it die and pretended nobody heard it."
Tim Pawlenty focused his speech on taking jabs at Obama.
"Barack Obama's rhetoric doesn't get us a job, does it?" Pawlenty asked -- and the crowd roared "No!"
"Is it time for Barack Obama to go?" he continued -- and the crowd roared "Yes!"
Pawlenty said voters can trust him not just to talk the talk, but to walk the walk, something that he said Obama has failed to do.
"For us, too, it's got to be more than words. We've got to deliver," he said. "So I stand before you as a candidate who stakes his claim to Iowa and his claim in this race here today in large part on the fact that I just don't talk about it. We get the job done for Minnesota and for America."
These GOP candidates' goal in Ames was to get the faithful to vote in a straw poll. Perry's was to prove that he can appeal to the broadest swath of GOP voters while also addressing the concerns of independents and not-as-committed Republicans.
Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll, but Perry won the message war -- today. But, it remains to be seen how well he stays on message once he leaves the comfort of the small stage in Charleston and has to get on the national stage next week.